Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/284

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268

��VIOLIN.

��these terms came to designate the lyre itself, just as we now speak of the quartet of fiddles collectively as 'the strings.' In the deriva-

��VIOLIN.

tive tongues the diminutive assumed various forms, which may be divided into two groups, thus :

��Latin Fides, a string Diminutive

Fidicula

i

��(SOUTHERN GROUP

Low Latin.)

��(NORTHERN GROUP Old French.)

Fideille l

��Fidiula or

��Fidula

(also. Vitula, Vidula,

Vidella. Figella. Ac.)

��Spanish

Vihuela Viola

��Provencal

Viola Viula

��Italian

Viola

(French Viole, English Viol)

��Hediffival French

Vielle

(Viella)

��Anglo-

Saxon

Fithele

Scottish

Fithel

��Mediaeval

English

Fidel

Modern

English

Fiddle

��Hi'gh

German

Fiedel

Low German

Vedel

��Diminutive

Violino Fr. Violon 2

�Augmentative

Violone

I

��Diminutive

Violoncello

��The Violin is the most popular and useful of all portable instruments, and indeed of all instruments except the pianoforte, and it has considerable importance as being the principal instrument in the orchestra, the main body of which is composed of violins, in their three sizes of trebles, altos or tenors, and basses. It is nearer to the human voice in quality, compass, and facility of execution than any other instru- ment ; few are simpler in construction, and none is so cheap or so easily mastered, provided the learner sets rightly about it. In addition to the popularity which it enjoys on these accounts, the fiddle exercises an unique charm over the mind from the continuity of its existence and useful- ness. Most people are aware that ' an old fiddle is better than a new one.' This, as will appear further on, is not absolutely true ; although probably the majority of the fiddles in use are not new, very many being one, two, and even three hundred years old. A violin, if it be only well-made to begin with, can by timely and judicious rehabilitation, be made to last practi- cally for ever, or at least to outlast the lifetime of any particular possessor : and few things are more fascinating than putting an old disused Violin through this process, and reawakening its musical capacities. The Violin thus enjoys a sort of mysterious immortality, the effect of which is often enhanced by the groundless idea

i The form Fideille Is not found, so far as the writer knows, In literature, its place having been early taken by the decayed form vielle ' : but its past existence is demonstrable by analogy. Brachet <Grammaire Historique de la Langue Francaise, p. 285) gives the fol- lowing instances of the French forms assumed by Latin words in -iculus, -a, -um : Abellle (apicula). Ortell (orticulum). Sommeil (som- nlculus). Pe"ril (perlculum), Oreille (auricula), Cornellle (cornlcula), Ouallle (ovlcula), Vermeil (vermlculus), Aiguille (acioula). From this list, to which may be added Corbeille (corbicula), we may safely con- clude that Fidicula became in the oldest French ' fldellle,' which form was transmitted with very little alteration to Anglo-Saxon and Old High German, while to France itself it became by phonetic decay

a Violon ' is the old French diminutive of Viole,' and exactly equi- valent to ' Yiolino.*

��that no good fiddles have been made since the golden age of the Cremona makers, which terminated 120 years ago, and that the secrets of violin-making are lost. In connexion w ith this, a good deal of enthusiasm has been lavished by connoisseurs on the beauty of design and varnish of the old Cremona Violins, and even in some useful and reputable works on this subject this enthusiasm has been carried to a point where it can only be described as silly and grotesque. A fiddle, after all, even a Stradivari, is not a work of pure art, like a piece of painting or sculpture : it is as merely a machine as a watch, a gun, or a plough. Its main excellences are purely mechanical, and though most good fiddles are also well-designed and handsome, not a few are decidedly ugly. Leopold Mozart, in his Violin- School, has some pertinent remarks on this fallacy. To choose a fiddle for its outward symmetry and varnish, he says, is like choosing a singing bird for its fine feathers.

Instruments more or less corresponding to our fiddle have been in use from very early times, and their origin has been the subject of much speculation. Bowed instruments have long been in use among various Oriental peoples : and this fact, interpreted by the fallacy that all inventions have their ultimate origin in the East, has led many to ascribe an Oriental origin to our bowed instruments. Strict examination compels us to reject this view. The harp and lyre were bor- rowed by the Greeks from Egypt, probably, like the alphabet, through Phoenicia: but here the debt of Europe to the stringed instrument makers of the East begins and ends. The Arabic and Hindoo instruments from which Fdtis and others deduce the Violin, evidently belong to a totally distinct family. Their resonant box con- sists of a small drum, perforated by a stick, the top of which serves as a fingerboard, while the lower end is rested on the ground during per-

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